The nature of empirical I
Socrates had clear idea of his temporal or empirical I as against his spiritual or supra-sensory I. Therefore, when Crito asked him the momentous question, ‘How are we to bury you’ he replied without slightest hesitation : ‘Any how you like, if you can catch me and I don’t you elude you’, making a clear distinction that his spiritual or supra-sensory-essence, which is the real Socrates who talks and represents as the person communicating and setting out arguments, the one whom Crito would not be able catch when he takes poison and dies and the temporal or empirical I-form by which he is recognized as the corpse of the wise Socrates who died drinking the poison .
Socrates clarifies that ‘When the man dies the visible part of him, situated in the visible realm, that is to say, the body which we call corpse, which decays and becomes decomposed and dissolved by the winds, does not suffer any experiences and can remain as it is for quite a long time. Even if a man dies and if his body is in fine condition and during fine season of the year, it may last for a long time as when the body is embalmed – as in the case of those who have been embalmed in Egypt, remains for an amazing length of time; and even if the body corrupts, some parts of it – bones and sinews - are practically everlasting’. The soul, the invisible part however, leaves the body, pure when separated, dragging nothing of the body with it, having no dealings with the body even during its life time, having shunned it and kept itself to itself, making that as its constant purpose and practice pursuing philosophy in the correct manner, in very truth practicing death or in truth that itself being the practice of death!’.
Socrates believes that ‘Every pleasure and pain fastens it (the soul) to the body as with a nail pining it down and making it (or identifying it) with the body, imagining to be true whatever the body declares to be so. Holding the same opinion as the body and taking delight in the same things, the soul is forced to acquire the same sort of habits and to take the same sort of nourishment and to become such that it can never reach the other world in the state of purity ; it would always go contaminated by the body and soon fall back again in another body and grow there like a seed that has been sown and as a result be deprived of the privilege of dwelling in what is divine and pure and of single nature.’
This is because ‘when the soul makes use of sight or hearing or some other sense, being the disposition of the body, in studying some thing under sense influence, it is dragged by the body and to whatever that is not constant, fluctuating and confused, and wavering like one drunk, because it is in contact with things that are fluctuating and confused, and wavering. Whenever soul and body are together it is the nature of body that bid the soul to be subservient and ruled over, while it is the nature of the soul to rule and dominate. Here which one of the two would you think is the divine, and which is the mortal ? Or would you agree think that it is the nature of the divine to rule and to lead, and of the mortal to be ruled and to serve?’
Socrates points that the philosopher leads is a narrow path because so long as one uses body and reason, his search and the soul remains tainted with blemish and will never attain to the truth. As he puts, ‘The body presents one innumerable distractions because of the necessity of looking after it and if any illness assails it, even that hamper us in our pursuit of truth. The body fills us with emotions of love, desire and fear and all kinds of phantasy and nonsense, so that in every truth it does allow us ever to think of anything at all. In fact all wars, strife and battles are due to the body and desire’. Therefore, Socrates denies any possibility of ‘pure knowledge of any thing when we are with body, when one of the two things becomes true: either it is not possible to acquire knowledge or it is possible only after death. . .’.
But when Socrates uses the word death, one must understand that it could mean the separation of the soul intellectually and psychologically of the soul with body and not necessarily the separation of the soul with decay, deterioration and destruction of the body. Therefore, being in body is a constraint in acquiring true knowledge, and freeing or separation of the soul from the body alone gives one true knowledge, suggesting that empirical knowledge as an impediment in the search for true spiritual wisdom. Only through Death, Socrates means the ‘separation of the soul from the body and being dead as the independent state of the body in separation of the soul and independent state of the soul in separation from te body.’ He says that ‘Philosopher’s soul has no respect for the body and shuns it, seeking rather than to be independent of it. This is what is called death, freeing or separation of soul from body’. ‘A true philosopher in particular, or rather alone, are always eager to free the soul and this very thing is the philosopher’s occupation, a freeing or separation of soul from body.’
Socrates is, therefore, summarizes that ‘ the souls not of the good but of the bad-souls which are compelled to wander about such places, paying the penalty for their former wicked ways of life. And they wander about until through desires of that which follows about with them, the corporeal element, they are imprisoned again in a body, and they are probably imprisoned in creatures or whatever sort of character thehave cultivated during their lives.’ Therefore, ‘if ever you see a man grumbling when on the point of death (the separation of the soul from the body) isn’t sufficient proof that he has not been a lover of wisdom but merely a lover of the body ? also a lover of wealth and of honour?’.
For Ramana Maharshi realization came from his Death Experience that the gross body as some thing different from the luminous self within. It was his first luminous experience that ‘The body is insentient and inert’ and ‘I’ am the Deathless spirit’. This sudden transformation became evident in the note which he left home to meet Aunachala, which read, ‘I have set out in quest of my father in accordance with His command. It is on virtuous enterprise that this has embarked ; therefore let none grieve over this act and let no money be spent in search of this’, which shows a significant shift from the body referred conventionally as ‘I’ reaching out to the universal and spiritual I, ‘the father’, announcing when he reached Arunachala, that ‘Father, ‘I’ have come’.
From that moment whether in the underground Patala Lingam sanctuary of thetemple or in the mangrove or on the mountains, he wa completely oblivious of his body and the external surroundings, whether worms were biting or ants were traveling over his body, his I was completely separated from the I-consciousness. During his entire presence in this priomordial world, he brought to the attention of the people with his statement (which appeared casual language but which were pregnant with enlightened wisdom), to what extent human beings are enslaved by mind in identifying the body and the empirical I with the self, the spiritual I, the within.
During the closing years when the first signs of cancerous growth were perceived, and when he would say ‘There is pain’ in the body and never ‘I have pain’in my body, he would see important devotees grieving showing normal emotions, exclaiming‘Here is someone who has been listening to my teachings for forty years and now says that he if going somewhere away from Bhagavan! . . . They take this body for Bhagavan and attribute suffering to him. What a pity! They are sad that Bhagavan is going to leave them and go away; where can he go and how can he go?’ Cohen records him saying, ‘If the hands of the Jnani were cut with knife there would be pain as with every one else but because his mind is in bliss he does not feel the pain as acutely as other do’. ‘The jnani who has found himself as formless pure Awareness is unaffected though the body be cleft with a sword. Sugar candy does not lose its sweetness though broken or crushed’. He would remark ‘You attach too much importance to the body’.
To one of the earnest devotee he asked, ‘Do you know what Moksha is? It is getting rid of the sense of misery, which is unreal and attain Bliss, which is always there. That is Moksha.’ Therefore ‘Why should he carry the burden of coconut’ or would inquire ‘When we have finished the meal do we keep the body alone, when it needs four persons to carry?’ and say, ‘Suppose you go to a firewood depot and buy a bundle of firewood and engage a collie to carry it to your house. As you walk along with him, he will be anxiously looking forward to the destination so that he can throw off his burden and get relief. In the same way the jnani is anxious to throw of his mortal body’ After some time he spoke again correcting him self, ‘This exposition is all right as far as it goes, but strictly speaking even this is not accurate. The jnani is not even anxious to shed his body; he is indifferent alike to the existence or non-existence of the body, being almost unaware of it’.